When buying a solar photovoltaic (PV) system, you should talk to several solar retailers and obtain multiple quotes.
If you need help locating a good company to buy from, the Clean Energy Council's list of Approved Solar Retailers is a good place to start.
You might also be able to pick up some tips from householders in your area who have already installed solar panels.
Who's who in the solar market
The primary entities involved in the sale and installation of solar PV are the retailer, designer and installer.
Sometimes these roles are filled by one individual, which is typically the case with small retail businesses run by a qualified installer/designer. However, two or three different entities can be involved with medium- to large-sized companies that subcontract out their designs and/or installations.
Many solar PV retailers in the industry now sell systems directly to consumers and subcontract the installation of those systems.
Things to consider when choosing a solar PV retailer
Are they reputable?
When selecting your solar retailer, make sure you go with a reputable company with a proven history. Find out how long they have been in the solar industry, and whether they are an established company that will be around in the future if things go wrong. Remember, warranties and workmanship guarantees cease if the company goes out of business.
Contact a few of the company’s former customers to ask if they were knowledgeable, easy to work with, and took the time to explain the system's operation. Also find out if their systems are working well and if there have been any problems – and if so, did the installer return to fix them?
Online and mail-order solar PV retailers who never visit your home or business may have difficulty recommending the most appropriate equipment. A comprehensive, on-site solar and load analysis and two-way interview can help ensure a thoughtfully designed and well-planned installation.
Are they a Clean Energy Council Approved Solar Retailer?
Approved Solar Retailers have signed the the Clean Energy Council's Solar PV Retailer Code of Conduct, which was set up to help consumers choose a retailer committed to high levels of quality and service.
Selecting an Approved Solar Retailer is a way to make sure you are dealing with a company that prides itself on being an industry leader and will offer a five-year, whole-of-system warranty.
Companies that have signed on to the code of conduct can be identified by the ‘Approved Retailer’ logo. To see which companies have signed on to the code, view our list of Approved Solar Retailers.
Do they have relevant experience?
Try to establish how many systems similar to yours the designer or installer has completed, and when they last completed a system.
Are they up to date with the newest products, the latest regulatory issues and your area's connection requirements? Remember – local companies or companies that operate within your state may have more experience dealing with your distributor and any state-specific regulations.
Do they use Clean Energy Council–accredited installers?
To be eligible for government incentives, both the designer and installer of your solar PV system must be accredited by the Clean Energy Council.
The Clean Energy Council’s accreditation scheme ensures that accredited designers and installers of solar PV power systems have undergone the necessary professional training, adhere to Australian Standards and follow industry best practice.
The Clean Energy Council maintains a list of accredited installers.
Things to watch out for when choosing a solar PV retailer
- Aggressive sales tactics
- ‘One size fits all’ system designs
- Over-exaggerated claims of pay back periods and system performance
- Large inverters with small systems. In this case, your ability to upgrade your system in future may depend on receiving permission from your distributor, and on suitable arrays still being available. Upgrading your system may also mean losing your feed-in tariff
- Pressure to sign on the spot. Remember, for unsolicited sales, you are entitled to a cooling-off period of 10 business days, during which you may cancel the contract without penalty.
Questions to ask your solar PV retailer
- Are they a Clean Energy Council Approved Solar Retailer?
- Will they be available to troubleshoot and fix problems?
- If something goes wrong, who is responsible for repair or replacement costs?
- What performance guarantees do you get for the system as a whole?
- Do they provide some kind of optional service agreement?
- Who organises the necessary metering changes and what are the associated costs?
- If problems arise with your system, what services will they provide and for how long?
- What workmanship and product guarantees do they offer?
- Who is responsible for the warranties?
- What happens to the warranties if they go out of business?
- How long has the product manufacturer or importer been in the PV industry?
- If you have to deal with the panel or inverter manufacturer or importer in future, do they have an Australian office?